Garrity's first post is the baby race at 1:34 pm EDT.
Gulfstream and Oaklawn Parks are the tracks running today, and an event at the former would normally be a very big deal: The first race of the year for 2-year-olds goes as the 2nd from Gulfstream, in which eight fillies will sprint four and a half furlongs on the main track. This is a powerful indicator of change, in both the racing and natural worlds: Like a new group of kids entering kindergarten, the start of juvenile racing in the spring is a powerful sign of seasonal change, of rebirth, of renewal. This will sadly but understandably be largely lost amid all the news about the coronavirus pandemic, but we thought we’d take a moment to remind everyone that despite all that’s going on in the world, the planets keep spinning, the seasons progressing, and one day, we will get out of the deal we’re all currently stuck in.
We like a couple of races at each track. The weather in Hot Springs should be ideal for racing, and while the forecast for South Florida is iffy, with a chance of showers through the afternoon, conditions were fast and firm at Gulfstream at press time Thursday morning, and we are playing with the assumption that they will stay that way through the duration of the card. Let’s go.
Gulfstream Park, Race 2, 1:34 pm ET
Maiden Special Weight, 4 ½ furlongs, Dirt, 2-year-old Fillies
With this being the first baby race of the year, all eight runners here are obviously making their first starts. With no prior form to look at, the handicapper must go strictly by pedigree and trainer patterns. We think the latter is more important than the former, but both matter.
It is therefore unsurprising that the favorite is a Wesley Ward trainee: 2-Lime is a modestly-bred filly, but she has speed in her pedigree, and Ward has become such a wizard with juveniles that horses he sends get bet automatically. Lime looks like a runner, having a steady series of morning works, including a couple that are very quick. There is really nothing to dislike about her except price: She’s 7/5 on the morning line, and will likely be odds-on at post time.
We are looking elsewhere, and it’s to the filly just inside Lime, to 1-Awesome View, who starts for Ralph Nicks. Her morning works suggest that she too has quite a bit of speed, which is a necessity at this short 4 ½ furlong distance, and both her pedigree and her conditioner have good past results with horses winning first time out. We will bet her to win at 7/2. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 2, $20 to win on 1-Awesome View.
Gulfstream Park, Race 6, 3:43 pm ET
$30,000 Claiming, 1 mile, Turf, 3 & Up
This claiming race on the turf drew a field of nine. The field is loaded, just absolutely stacked, with early speed and one-way frontrunners, and we think the race will feature a pace meltdown as a result. We’re looking for a runner who will be able to sit back behind the suicidal early pace, and move forward when the pacesetters begin to tire.
The pick is 6-Lookin At Roses, who starts for trainer Guadalupe Preciado. He’s run three good races since being claimed by Preciado last fall, and we think any one of those efforts should be good enough to take this. He’s a deep closer, and these kinds of horses are usually at the mercy of how the race unfolds in front of them, but we think the setup Lookin At Roses gets this afternoon will be close to ideal. We will bet him to win at 9/2. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 6, $40 to win on 6-Lookin At Roses.
Oaklawn Park, Race 5, 4:06 pm ET
Allowance, 1 1/16 miles, Dirt, Arkansas-breds 3 & up
This state-bred allowance drew a full field of twelve. Beyer Speed Figures tell an interesting story here: the last three figs that 1-Prospector Fever has earned are 78, 76, and 83. These are clearly superior to the figs his rivals have earned, but there are two catches: These races were at Sam Houston, not Oaklawn, and they came on turf, while today’s race is on dirt.
Can Prospector Fever transfer his form from turf to dirt? We think the answer is yes: He ran similar figures over the winter on the dirt surfaces at both Sam Houston and Delta Downs, and he’s a strong finisher in a race that looks to have a fast early pace. We will take 3-1 that Prospector Fever will be getting his picture taken after today’s 5th at Oaklawn Park. We will bet him to win. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 5, $35 to win on 1-Prospector Fever.
Oaklawn Park, Race 7, 5:06 pm ET
Starter Optional Claiming, 1 3/16 miles, Dirt, 4 & Up
The 7th at Oaklawn drew a full field of 12. At 1 3/16 miles, it’s about as long a race as they run at Oaklawn.
We like a horse at a big price here, 6-Ocean Fury, who goes for trainer Doug O’Neill. O’Neill has only recently started running horses at Oaklawn, after being a stalwart in the Southern California training ranks for decades, but he’s as good as anyone in the business. He brings Ocean Fury into this race after a winter campaign in Dubai, and while that didn’t exactly go so well -- the results of his three races there were largely disastrous -- he was a pretty capable colt before that, good enough that he was competitive in some minor stakes on the Southern California circuit. He’s been primarily a grass horse, and today runs on dirt, but he has a pedigree that suggests he can win on dirt, and we think this colt just may wake up today and beat this modest field. At 20-1, we think it’s worth a wager that he does. We will bet him to win and to place. The bets: Oaklawn Park, Race 7, $25 to win / $10 to place on 6-Ocean Fury.
Gulfstream Park, Race 9, 5:17 pm ET
Allowance/Optional claiming, 6 furlongs, Dirt, Florida-breds 3 & Up
Eleven drew into this allowance/optional claimer for state-breds, but we did not have to look very far to find the runner we like: It’s 1-Cajun Brother, who breaks from the rail for trainer Michael Yates. He’s a 3-year-old who broke his maiden on March 14, at Gulfstream Park and at today’s distance, and he did so in a way that we think he can replicate today: by going right to the front and staying there all the way. He’s got an edge in early speed on the rest of the field, and breaking from the rail, he’s going to need to use it. The main track at Gulfstream has been very kind to speed recently, and we see Cajun Brother stealing this race on the front end, at very nice 8-1 odds. We will bet him to win. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 9, $35 to win on 1-Cajun Brother.
Oaklawn Park, Race 8, 5:38 pm ET
Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 1/16 miles, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up
This allowance drew a field of twelve. We like 10-Unique Factor. We see the pace being hot here, and consequently think the race shape will favor stalkers and closers. We think Unique Factor will get a good mid-pack trip, get first jump on the tiring pacesetters, and be able hold off the deep closers. We will bet her to win at 4-1. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 8, $30 to win on 10-Unique Factor.
That’s all for today. Enjoy the racing, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.